Kodava language

The Kodava (Kodava takk, meaning 'speech of Kodavas', in the Kodava language, alternate name: Coorgi, Kodagu) is an endangered[3] Dravidian language and it is spoken in Kodagu district in Southern Karnataka, India. The term Kodava has two related usages. Firstly, it is the name of the Kodava language and culture followed by a number of communities from Kodagu. Secondly, within the Kodava-speaking communities and region (Kodagu), it is a demonym for the dominant Kodava people. Hence, the Kodava language is not only the primary language of the Kodavas but also of many other castes and tribes in Kodagu. The language has two dialects: Mendele (spoken in Northern and Central Kodagu, i.e. outside Kodagu's Kiggat naadu) and Kiggat (spoken in Kiggat naadu, in Southern Kodagu).

Native toKarnataka
Native speakers
113,857 (2011 census)[1]
Kannada script
Official status
Regulated byKarnataka Kodava Sahitya Academy
Language codes
ISO 639-3kfa
Dravidian map.svg

Historically, it has been referred to as a dialect of Kannada.[4] However it has been re-analysed as a language by early 20th century academics. Now it is considered as an intermediate language between Kannada, Malayalam, Tamil, and Tulu in comparative linguistics.[4]

It is traditionally written using the Kannada script which is an abugida. The 2011 Census of India reports 96,918 persons who returned Kodava as their mother tongue and 16,939 for Coorgi/Kodagu, for a total of 113,857 persons who identified one of these languages as their mother tongue.[5]

Linguistic Survey of India (1906) map of the distribution of Dravidian languages


In Kannada, the region was called Kodagu and the people Kodaga. Natively, the people were called Kodava and the land was called Kodavu in the folksongs. Comparative Dravidian studies show that the Kodava language belongs to the South Dravidian language group.[6] [7]


The grammar of Kodagu has been systematically studied and documented since at least around 1867 when Captain R.A. Cole published the seminal work An Elementary Grammar of the Coorg Language.[8]



Dravidian vowel systems contain five vowel qualities i.e. those usually corresponding to a, e, i, o and u., with a short and long variants for each. However, Kodava has two more: the mid and high (close) back unrounded vowels, with corresponding long variants.[9]

Kodagu has 14 vowels. 7 of these, i, e, ɛ, a, ɑ, o, u, have long equivalents.[10]

Front Central Back
Close i ɨ u
Close-mid e ə o
Open a


Kodava has 25 consonants.

Bilabial Dental Alveolar Retroflex Palatal Velar Glottal
Nasal m ɳ ɲ ŋ
Stop voiceless p ʈ c k
voiced b ɖ ɟ g
Fricative s ʂ ʃ h
Approximant ʋ l ɭ j
Trill r

Kodava and Kannada share a lack of palatalization of word-initial *k-, which is a feature found in the Tamil-Malayalam branch.[12]


Linguistically, Kodava/Kodagu language belongs to the South Dravidian subfamily of the Dravidian family. Further within the South Dravidian subfamily , it belongs to the subgroup Tamil-Malayalam-Kodagu-Kota-Toda.[13] It is closely related to and influenced by Kannada, Malayalam, Tamil and Tulu. A majority of the words are common between Kodava and Beary bashe, a dialect which is a mixture of Tulu and Malayalam spoken by the Beary muslims and Kodava Thiyyar communities. Kodava is also closely related to the Kasaragod and Kannur dialects of Malayalam, which are in turn related to Beary.


Family histories, rituals and other records were scripted on palm leaves called Pattole (patt=palm, ole=leaf) by astrologers in the ancient times. When Kodava was written, it was usually with Kannada script, sometimes with minor modifications. The folk songs of the Kodavas, called the Palame (also known as the Balo Patt or Dudi Patt), were orally transmitted across several generations. The language had no significant written literature until the twentieth century. Appachcha Kavi, a playwright, and Nadikerianda Chinnappa, a folk compiler, are the two important poets and writers of the Kodava language. Other important writers in the language were B D Ganapathy and I M Muthanna.

The Coorgi-Cox alphabet

In 2005, after requests from the Kodagu community, German linguist Gerard Cox created a script unique to Kodava called the Coorgi-Cox script. It uses straight lines for 5 vowels, and has circles for diphthongs.[14]

The Pattole Palame, a collection of Kodava folksongs and traditions compiled in the early 1900s by Nadikerianda Chinnappa, was first published in 1924. The most important Kodava literature, it is said to be one of the earliest, if not the earliest, collection of folklore of a community in an Indian language. Nearly two-thirds of the book consists of folksongs that were handed down orally through generations, sung even today during marriage and death ceremonies and during festivals relating to the seasons and in honour of local deities and heroes. Traditionally known as Balo Pat, these songs are sung by four men who beat dudis (drums) as they sing. Kodava folk dances are performed to the beat of many of these songs. The Pattole Palame was written using the Kannada script originally; it has been translated into English by Boverianda Nanjamma and Chinnappa, grandchildren of Nadikerianda Chinnappa, and has been published by Rupa & Co., New Delhi.[15]


The Kodava Cinema industry is very small. A few movies portraying the native culture and traditions of the Kodavas have been produced in this language. The first Kodava film 'Nada Mann Nada Kool' was directed by S.R.Rajan and produced in the year 1972.

Words for family membersEdit

Mother Avvo
Father Appo
Grandfather Ajjo
Grandmother Ajjavo Thaayi
Maternal Uncle / Paternal Aunt's husband Thammaavo / Maavo
Maternal Uncle's wife / Paternal Aunt Maavi / Thammaavi
Eldest Paternal Uncle / Eldest Maternal Aunt's husband Baliappo
Eldest Paternal Uncle's wife / Eldest Maternal Aunt Baliavvo
Elder Paternal Uncle / Elder Maternal Aunt's husband Bojappo
Elder Paternal Uncle's wife / Elder Maternal Aunt Bojavvo
Younger Paternal Uncle / Younger Maternal Aunt's husband Kunjappo
Younger Paternal Uncle's wife/ Younger Maternal Aunt Kunjavvo
Youngest Paternal Uncle / Youngest Maternal Aunt's husband Cheriappo
Youngest Paternal Uncle's wife/ Youngest Maternal Aunt Cheriavvo
Father-in-law Maavo
Mother-in-law Maavi
brother-in-law (elder) / cross-cousin (elder, brother) / lineal cousin (elder, sister)'s husband Baavo
sister-in-law (elder)/ cross-cousin (elder, sister) / lineal-cousin (elder, brother)'s wife Mammo
brother (elder) / lineal cousin (elder brother) / cross-cousin (elder, sister)'s husband Anno / Annaiah
sister (elder) / lineal-cousin (elder, sister) / cross-cousin (elder, brother)'s wife Akko / Akkaiah
brother (younger) Thammanno
sister (younger) Thange
Wife Ponne
Husband Wadiyye
Son Movo
Daughter Mova

Kodava wordsEdit

Kodava Kannada Tamil Malayalam Tulu English
Moodi Hudugi Peṇ/Peḍḍai/Ponnu Penkutti Ponnu Girl
Kinha Huduga Aan/Peḍiyan/Paiyan/Chiruvan Aankutti Aan/Kinni Boy
Poyi Hogu Pō(y) Poyko Poyi Go
Kanni Saaru Kañji/Kūṭṭu Chaar Kajipu Stew (lentils, vegetables, etc)
Koole Anna Chōr/Kūḻ Chor Nuppu Cooked Rice
Id Idu Iḍu/Vai Ide Dee Put
Thimbak Tinnakke Thinnu/Uṇṇu/Sāppiḍu Tinnuka/Kazhikkuka Thinere To Eat
kuLi snana kuLi kuLi Meela To Bath
Unda? Unta/ideya? Uṇḍā?/Irukkuthā? Undo? Unda? Is There?
Bappi Bartini Va(ruki)ṟēn/Varuvēn Varam Barpe I will Come (Farewell Greeting)
Ullo iddene/ulle irukkiṟēn/uḷḷēn Ulle Ulle Am There
Bandan Ullo Baruta iddene Va(ruki)ṟēn Varunnund Barond ulle Am coming
Yenene Ulliya? Hege iddiya? Eppaḍi/Enneṇdu (uḷḷ-/irukkiṟ-)(-ai/-āi/-īrgaḷ) Engane und? Encha ulla/ya? How are you?
Māṅge Maavu Māṅgā(y)/Māmpaḻam Māṅga/Māmpaḻam Mudi/Kukku Mango
Kaḷḷa Kaḷla Kaḷḷan/Kaḷvan/Thiruḍan Kaḷḷan Kalva Thief
Suroole /Minyathele Modalu Mudal(il) Adyam Suru First
Kere Pamb Kere Haavu Chārai Pāmbu Chēra Pamb Keri Rat Snake
Mūle Mūle Mūlai Mūla Mudye/mūle Corner
Āme Āme Āmai Āma Eme Tortoise
Bēli Bēli Vēli Vēli Bēli Fence
Bithe/Kuru Beeja Vitthu/Vithai Vitth/Kuru Bitth Seed
Bādege Bādige Vādakai Vādaka Badige Rent
Chaththe Sante Chanthai Chantha Santhe Market
Ēni Ēni Ēṇi Ēni Ēni Ladder
Pulunja Puḷi Hunase Huli PuLi PuLi Punke puli Tamarind
Gaali/Kaath Gaali Kāṟṟu/Kāththu Kaatt Gaali Wind
Thaari Kodu Tharu/Koḍu Tharu Koru give
Kaapi Kaapi Kaapi Kaapi Kaapi Coffee
Paaduvo Haadu Paadu Paaduka Pada paad to sing

Recent developmentsEdit

Since 2021, the Mangalore University now teaches an MA degree in the Kodava language.[16]


  1. ^ "Census of India Website : Office of the Registrar General & Census Commissioner, India". censusindia.gov.in. Retrieved 5 July 2018.
  2. ^ "Dravidian". Ethnologue. Archived from the original on 16 April 2017.
  3. ^ "Five Languages in Karnataka, Including Tulu Vanishing: Unesco". www.daijiworld.com. Retrieved 18 September 2020.
  4. ^ a b Thurston, Edgar (16 June 2011). The Madras Presidency with Mysore, Coorg and the Associated States. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-1-107-60068-3.
  5. ^ "Census of India 2011" (PDF). Census of India : Office of the Registrar General & Census Commissioner, India. Retrieved 24 January 2020.
  6. ^ Rajyashree, K S. "Language in India: Kodava speech community - an ethnolinguistic study". www.languageinindia.com. Retrieved 30 May 2022.
  7. ^ "KODAVA THAKK , AN INDEPENDENT LANGUAGE , NOT A DIALECT – Kodavas". Kodavas.in. Retrieved 30 May 2022.
  8. ^ "Coorg Grammar". 11 August 1867 – via Internet Archive.
  9. ^ Emeneau, M. B. (1970). "Koḍagu Vowels". Journal of the American Oriental Society. 90 (1): 145–158. doi:10.2307/598436. ISSN 0003-0279. JSTOR 598436.
  10. ^ "PHOIBLE Online -". phoible.org. Retrieved 26 January 2019.
  11. ^ a b The Dravidian languages (Bh. Krishnamurti) (2003), p. 64.
  12. ^ Emeneau, M. B. (1967). "The South Dravidian Languages". Journal of the American Oriental Society. 87 (4): 365–413. doi:10.2307/597585. ISSN 0003-0279. JSTOR 597585.
  13. ^ Krishnamurti, Bhadriraju. Dravidian Languages, p21, Cambridge Language Surveys, Cambridge University Press, 2003
  14. ^ Merritt, Anne (1 April 2015). "Easiest written languages for English speakers". The Daily Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 14 October 2017.
  15. ^ "– Official Website of Kodava Community". Kodava.org. Retrieved 1 June 2012.
  16. ^ "Mangalore University to offer MA in Kodava language". Deccan Herald. 17 December 2021. Retrieved 30 May 2022.


  • R A Cole, "An Elementary Grammar of the Coorg Language"

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit